Eight EU members call on Borrell to curb movement of Russian diplomats

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Foreign ministers from eight EU countries have sent a letter to the bloc’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, obtained by AFP on Thursday, asking him to curb Russian diplomats’ movement in the Schengen area.

They claim the free movement of Russian diplomatic passport holders in the visa-free Schengen area facilitates “malign activities,” amid concerns Moscow is stepping up its attempts to sow divisions within the EU.

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“We believe the EU should... restrict the movement of members of Russian diplomatic missions and their family members to territory of a state of their accreditation only,” the eight ministers said.

The letter to the foreign policy chief is signed by the Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian ministers and dated June 11.

The proposed measure “will significantly narrow operational space for Russian agents,” they added.

EU countries have already dramatically reduced the number of Russian diplomats on their soil since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022.

The ministers said that “intelligence, propaganda or even preparation of sabotage acts are the main workload for a large number of Russian ‘diplomats’ in the EU.”

The Czech Republic and Poland have recently arrested arson suspects, claiming their crimes had been incited by Russia.

Lithuania in turn is grappling with Russia’s drive to unilaterally expand its maritime border at its expense.

“Russia has been conducting massive operations in Europe with a number of victims and important material damage for years,” the letter reads.

The ministers call on Borrell to “urgently table a concrete text proposal of restrictive measures.”

To dispel concerns about Moscow’s retaliation, the ministers say it will bear “far smaller cost than the potential damage Russian diplomats-agents can cause across Europe.”

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